The Open Expanse Of The Prairies

By Goran Prvulovic

I’m not sure where you live, but here in Calgary, Alberta, we live between the Rocky Mountain range and a vast expanse of prairie that extends far into the middle of Canada. Luckily for us who live here nestled between the two typographies, it means we have a larger variety of landscape to take pictures of.

Even still, you would be wise to not dismiss the vast prairies as a great potential source of pictures for your portfolio. The wide fields represent the uncivilized. Being secluded away from the hustle and bustle of city life, surrounded by the vast expanse of nature’s wilderness. A great prairie picture can bring up within us the feeling of being a cowboy, rancher, or farmer – and can provide a glimpse into a lifestyle that, while foreign to many in our generation, was quite common for our ancestors.

My grandparents were all farmers, with one of them owning a vineyard in Serbia. Although I may be among the first of my ancestors to give up their agricultural tradition – I can still bring that side of me to life with these pictures.

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This is the kind of picture that most of us imagine when we think of prairie photography. But even with a flat expanse, there is still much you can do with your picture. This cluster of trees right of the center is a nice visual bookmark and naturally draws our eye to them after looking through the yellow grass on the bottom. The sky has a beautiful hue to it, and the enhancement adds a nice spectrum of blue to the photo. The end result? A picture that feels far more vibrant and full of life than it would have otherwise.

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But when compared to a picture like this, it’s the complete opposite of the previous one. With far less enhancement, this picture looks far more natural. You’ll also notice that the prairie doesn’t need to be stereotypically flat – there’s nothing wrong if there’s some contour in your picture. This picture is taken from Nose Hill, one of the largest natural parks in North America (a favorite spot of mine) and overlooks the Calgary downtown.

You can see I’ve added an urban element to what would otherwise be a rural photo. With the downtown in the distance, you get this feeling that you are still quite close to home – like you’ve driven out to a picnic in the wild for some peace and quiet, but not so far that you won’t be back in time for dinner.

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Another similar photo to the other one, but with far less grass and more sky along with a closer, zoomed in sight of Calgary’s downtown. I personally prefer the other picture some more, but that’s individual taste. When taking photos make sure that you take a number of different variations, zoomed in, zoomed out, etc. Having a wider selection is good not only for your after-shooting processing but also for any clients who happen to have different tastes than you.

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Here’s another really interesting “natural” picture with relatively little enhancement in comparison to some of my other shots. A mountainous, prairie shot with a lone tree in the mid-ground and a cloudy backdrop behind it. Again, you get an excellent feeling of isolation, solitude, and being one with nature with pictures such as these. You can still see some enhancement towards the top of the sky, where the blue is especially dark.

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You will notice in all those other pictures, at least ½ to 2/3rds of the photo included the sky in it. In this photo, we have the opposite, with the sky accounting to around a quarter of the picture, with the rest of it being the prairie grass of Nose Hill. When compared to the very first picture in this blog post, they're very similar, yet still quite different. There is no vastness of the sky in this photo, giving us a far more grounded, earthy feel in this photo.

Prairies, if you happen to live in such a topography, are by no means boring, as some people would imagine. As is so often the case with photography, the difference between boring and interesting is best bridged by your own imagination. The use of your creativity is the most important aspect of making great photos and is what separates the successful and the common photographer.

Hopefully, these series of blogs is giving you some inspiration for your own creativity to play off of.

Until next time,

Goran